Celebrating the Marvelous Mary Lee (she really takes the cake)!

Hooray, Hooray, it’s Mary Lee Hahn Day!

We’re happy to join the throng of well wishers honoring educator, author, poet, baker and fearless Poetry Friday leader Mary Lee Hahn, who’s retiring from her 37-year teaching career and beginning a brand new chapter in her life!

In Dublin City, Ohio (35 years), and Dallas, Texas (2 years), this extraordinary human being has taught approximately 875 students (4th and 5th graders) under the leadership of 10 principals, 7 superintendents, and 2 curriculum directors, and — *wait . . . for . . . it* — her first students are now almost 50 years old. 😮😮😮

Though I often wish I could have been one of her students, I’ve been blessed with perhaps the next best thing — her fabulous posts at A Year of Reading, where she blogs with fellow teacher Franki Sibberson. 

Mary Lee’s poems appear in these anthologies.

I’ve been a faithful Mary Lee reader since I first started blogging in 2007, and I still look forward to seeing what she’s going to share every week. Whether she’s posting an original poem or the work of another, there’s always something new to learn and enjoy. 

Little known fact: I actually got to meet Mary Lee in person at KidlitCon 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. It was only the third kidlit/ya blogger conference of its kind and as a newbie, I was a little starstruck by those whose blogs I loved and admired. 

Mr Cornelius with Mary Lee at KidlitCon 2009

It’s a little surreal after “knowing” someone online for awhile to suddenly see her moving and talking right in front of you. My first thought upon seeing Mary Lee: “Love the cool purple eyeglasses!”

(Of course, everything about Mary Lee is cool, but you probably already knew that.)

After exchanging pleasantries, Mary Lee looked at me intently and asked, “With your blog, what is your process?”

Process? I was baffled. Was ‘winging it’ a process? Now, some 11 years later, I realize that that question is SO Mary Lee. Always curious and interested in how something works, open to new ideas and perspectives, wanting to glean and understand. That’s just one of the things that makes her such a good teacher: she’s a lifelong learner who has a passion for process.

Now, if being a beloved teacher, awesome blogger, and insightful poet wasn’t enough, Mary Lee is also a first rate baker. For years I’d been hearing about her classic from-scratch chocolate cake, and was thrilled when she wrote a poem about it 7 years ago. Not just any poem, mind you, but an abecedarian — which has this alphabet lover swooning to this day.

photo by Mary Lee Hahn (2021)
Abecedarian Cake Love

cake --
high --
notch --

©2014 Mary Lee Hahn

Yum yum yum yum yum!

Yes, there’s more. Mary Lee (please adopt me) wrote yet another abecedarian about cupcakes, this time blending her baking, poetry, and educator chops to sublime end.

photo by Mary Lee Hahn (2010)

Baking dozens of
Cupcakes this week, I’ve learned a few Life Lessons:
Delight in the process as much as the product.
Each ingredient is as important as the next.
Forget about the clock,
Go with the flow,
Have fun.
Joyously (and cover your mistakes with frosting).
Keep working until the
Last bowl is clean and dry and back on the shelf.
Measure ingredients with precision, but do
Not forget that there are times when
Observation is more
Powerful than
Quantifiable amounts or
Tasting the frosting when buttercream becomes
Value your
Work enough to make the
eXtra effort worth the time
You put into the project. Be
Zealous, but never a zealot.
 ©2010 Mary Lee Hahn
photo by Mary Lee Hahn (2010)

Were truer words ever spoken? Baking lessons are indeed life lessons. I guess I’m one of Mary Lee’s students after all. 🙂

To top things off, a final poem by Paula J. Fox which extols the virtues of good teachers like Mary Lee. As Robert Frost once said, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” William Butler Yeats offered: “Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.”

by Paula J. Fox

The child arrives like a mystery box…
with puzzle pieces inside
some of the pieces are broken or missing…
and others just seem to hide

But the HEART of a teacher can sort them out…
and help the child to see
the potential for greatness he has within…
a picture of what he can be

Her goal isn’t just to teach knowledge…
by filling the box with more parts
it’s putting the pieces together…
to create a work of art.

The process is painfully slow at times…
some need more help than others
each child is a work in progress…
with assorted shapes and colors

First she creates a classroom…
where the child can feel safe in school
where he never feels threatened or afraid to try…
and kindness is always the rule

She knows that a child can achieve
much more when he feels secure inside
when he’s valued and loved…
and believes in himself …
and he has a sense of pride

She models and teaches good character…
and respect for one another
how to focus on strengths…not weaknesses
and how to encourage each other

She gives the child the freedom he needs…
to make choices on his own
so he learns to become more responsible…
and is able to stand alone

He’s taught to be strong and think for himself…
as his soul and spirit heal
and the puzzle that’s taking shape inside…
has a much more positive feel

The child discovers the joy that comes…
from learning something new…
and his vision grows as he begins
to see all the things he can do

A picture is formed as more pieces fit…
an image of the child within
with greater strength and confidence…
and a belief that he can win!

All because a hero was there…
in the HEART of a teacher who cared
enabling the child to become much more…
than he ever imagined…or dared

A teacher with a HEART for her children…
knows what teaching is all about
she may not have all the answers…
but on this…she has no doubt

When asked which subjects she loved to teach,
she answered this way and smiled…
“It’s not the subjects that matter…

It’s all about teaching the CHILD."

Mary Lee has taught at DWE for the last 26 years. We’re thrilled she’s finally graduating from 5th grade! 😀


Mary Lee is the author of Reconsidering Read-Aloud (Stenhouse, 2002)

Congratulations, Mary Lee, on reaching this incredible milestone, and thank you for your unending creativity, dedication, kindness, and inspiration for so many — students, their families, other educators, friends, fellow writers, poets, and bloggers.

Good Luck and enjoy your retirement. Can’t wait to see where your journey will take you next. You were born not only with the heart of a teacher, but with the soul of a poet. xo

Now, let’s cut into that Berry Chantilly Cake! Everyone, you’re allowed to eat an extra piece since today is also Christie Wyman’s birthday. 🙂

From a fellow fly fishing enthusiast, a special double chocolate cupcake for Mary Lee, who is co-coordinator of Ohio’s Casting for Recovery program for breast cancer survivors.
Alphabet plate and mug design by Emily Sutton.

Class dismissed!


The lovely and talented Christie Wyman, the birthday girl, is hosting the Roundup at Wondering and Wandering. Zip over there and wish her many happy returns before you peruse the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Have a good one, Christie!

*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

49 thoughts on “Celebrating the Marvelous Mary Lee (she really takes the cake)!

  1. Hooray! A fabulous, reflective post….there’s a blogging conference? How about that? And, I love that you two talked about process. I must admit to being a fangirl of you both. You and the bears paint such a lovely portrait of our dear Mary Lee. I’m so glad to stop in for a bit of that luscious cake and share memories with you. Thank you, Jama.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think they’re still doing the kidlit bloggers conferences every Fall, but maybe once all the pandemic restrictions are lifted, they’ll resume. I was happy when they held it close to home that one year. Thank you for your always lovely and supportive comments, Linda. 🙂


  2. Thank you for this beautiful blogpost. Teachers are our country’s most precious commodity! Poetry and cake are up there too! Happy weekend to all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, Jama, there is a whole book of poetry in your photographs! I’m just amazed and have scrolled through several times to review the story you tell there. Complete the colorful ABCs and the abecedarian plate. Gorgeous.

    It is also fun to read the poems and text about your relationship and appreciation for Mary Lee.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post is everything Mary Lee is: M-A-R-V-E-L-O-U-S, Jama! I swoon at her poetry (those abecedarians!), her educator prowess, her everything-ness. She can adopt you and me both! We’ll be sisters! I think my new mantra in life will be: “Delight in the process as much as the product”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, delighting in the process is so important — we often forget to do that, being so focussed on end product. Mary Lee is indeed wise to embrace process as she does. Twins? That would be fun — two for the price of pun :D.


    1. Yay! Another advocate for PROCESS! When frustrated, I often have to remind myself to “trust the process.” With creative endeavors, each project unfolds in its own time, in its own way.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I remember you at the conference — I probably have a pic with you and Cornelius too. Had to do some sleuthing on old CDs to unearth the ML photo — was happy to find it. 🙂


    1. Someday I shall learn not to overthink and to trust the process more. Of course, this could involve eating more cake . . . but I’m willing to make the necessary sacrifices.


  5. Always, always the process, Jama! You remembered well, and took this celebration to the “sweetest” heights! I always get a little sugar when I read your posts and I’m sure Mary Lee’s grin will be wider than ever after reading. Nothing makes me happier than to hear from past students, some having babies already! This final poem is one I will keep, for former colleagues & those still teaching. It is a wonderful one for Mary Lee! “it’s putting the pieces together…/to create a work of art.” Indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, Jama. You’re always the best host of the best parties. This plethora of Mary Lee poetry – as well as other images and poems to feed the soul – makes me happy, and I can imagine the joy it’ll give Mary Lee.

    Class dismissed! We’re all in a little bit of a food coma from the cake! Never mind, though – Cornelius will get us up and organized shortly…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kudos on another wonderful post… I love the poem, and the cake… well… yes, please! Thanks for this resplendent tribute to ML!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, please, stop it with all the yummy cake poems and pics. It’s 7:30am in Australia – much too early for cake and frosting!!😋 Both Mary Lee’s abecedarians were new to me. I adore the second!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS I can’t imagine you as a newbie blogger. You set a whole other standard for blogging. And I loved your lettered pics throughout this. (We won’t mention the c-a-k-e…)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw, thanks for the kind comments. I’m a perpetual newbie — there’s always something more to learn about blogging. Cake? Did anyone mention cake?


  9. I love the idea of being an “awakener” instead of an educator!

    What an amazing post – filled with poems and tempting treats. This is such a rich tribute to Mary Lee and her contributions as an educator of children, and fellow poets. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked the quote. A crucial part of being an educator is to awaken and guide, and as the last poem says, to “teach the child.”


  10. What a delicious celebration of Marvelous Mary Lee, cake and all! Each post I read is unique and goes deeper into the who of Mary Lee. These poems of hers I love. I want to clip the Paula Fox poem to give to a colleague. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve also enjoyed reading all the different posts and poems about and by Mary Lee. She’s made such a big impact on us, whether we’ve met her in person or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Abecedarians are soo hard! How like Mary Lee to do the hard thing 🙂
    I am thrilled to be having Berry Chantilly Cake — just what I wanted!
    (Not sure I want this class to be dismissed…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right — Mary Lee is fearless and always up for a challenge. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from her is to never be afraid to try, to stumble, or to make a mistake. There’s something to be learned from triumphs as well as failures. It’s all about, you know, the process . . . 🙂


  12. Ah, Jama, this tribute to Mary Lee is as sweet and rich as the cakes (of which I want to partake) and you’ve deliciously captured her essence, as well as her cool purple glasses. Thanks for always being a day brightener. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I. Can’t. Even.

    I’ve been Jama-ized! The cake, the bears, the letters spelling my name, the photos, the carefully mined tidbits from my career (did I mention the cake?!?!), and to top it all off, the ABC plate to match my Abecedarians! What an honor…what a TREAT! And the poem — all kinds of perfection and wisdom. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you can see, we all love you. Thanks again for everything you do. You are a constant inspiration to us all. 🙂


  14. What a great post! I have been reading Mary Lee for years too, and I’m seeing all kinds of things for the first time as I read these posts! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here — it’s wonderful hearing about the different relationships ML has with other PF peeps, reading tidbits and observations.


  15. Another yummy post from you, Jama but this time featuring a baker-poet-teacher. I did not know that Mary Lee loved to bake! The poems you shared are marvelous and the cakes/cupcakes are making want to bake my own cake with luscious chocolate frosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That Mary Lee sure does whip up a tasty batch of abecedarians, doesn’t she! For me, this might be the best advice of all:

    Tasting the frosting when buttercream becomes


    “Heart of a Teacher” describes Mary Lee to a tee, but forgive me if I’m a wee bit jealous that she got to meet Mr. C. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr Cornelius was understandably awestruck. Perhaps he was hoping she had a chocolate cupcake with her at the time? 🙂


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